Native Northerner Realizing Hollywood Dreams
Tune in to her first thriller film — His Killer Fan — on Lifetime Feb. 19
By Ross Boissoneau | Feb. 6, 2021
Northern Michigan native Paula Rahn is about to realize her own Lifetime achievement: a film she wrote, His Killer Fan, will debut Feb. 19 on Lifetime television. “I’m super excited. It’s the sixth movie I’ve sold, and the fourth one to air,” she said.
Rahn spent most of her life in the Great Lakes State before heading to Hollywood. “I grew up in Gaylord and went to Traverse City for fun. I lived in Traverse City in my 20s,” Rahn said. She began her writing career while in Traverse City, initially by writing murder mysteries. “Traverse City is very creative. It is where my creativity kicked into gear.”
FROM FINANCE TO FILM WRITING
Struck by the writing bug, at age 29 she moved with her dreams to Tinseltown and became … a banker. While she found success in the financial industry, she still longed for a creative outlet. “I was unfulfilled,” she said. “I took a standup class and met Marguerite Henry.”
That meeting would be a turning point in Rahm’s career. Henry worked in the film industry — sometimes producing, sometimes working as a music supervisor — and the two became fast friends. Rahn mentioned in passing an idea for a holiday movie she had in mind. Henry liked the concept and pitched it to a company she was working with. “Two days later, she said, ‘We want to do it,’” said Rahn.
So Rahn set about crafting a film script, something she’d never done. She taught herself screenwriting, and that idea became her first film. A month later, she threw out another Christmas movie idea to Henry. Henry told Rahn the company wanted that one, too.
That’s when Rahn took a leap of faith, jettisoning her successful financial career in favor of becoming a full-time writer. In 2019, she and her boyfriend moved back to Michigan, settling on the east side of the state, in Tawas.
Despite her success crafting holiday tales, Rahn wanted to expand to other genres. Hence His Killer Fan, her first thriller. It follows the tale of a talented woman who becomes a huge fan of a noted celebrity. Soon, however, the woman’s fandom morphs into obsession. Rahn describes it as a cross between Swimfan and A Star Is Born. Both the protagonist and the antagonist are females, making the film perfect fodder for Lifetime's largely female audience.
AN INSPIRATION: CASTLE FARMS
Rahn said crafting such a story has been on her mind since she first saw one of her musical idols. “I’ve been thinking about it since the first time I saw Rick Springfield at Castle Farms,” she said.
Henry liked the script idea so much, she suggested the two team up to write it together. Said Rahn: “It’s the first time I’ve collaborated with someone. We wrote it in less than a week. It went so smoothly.”
Smooth timing was on their side in more ways than one: the pair finished the script in 2018, the project went into pre-production in 2019, was filmed in Atlanta in early 2020, and was finished just before the pandemic shut down film and television production all over the nation.
Rahn is clearly relieved the movie made it to the finish line for more reasons than one. Besides playing to a larger audience, the fact her latest effort will air on Lifetime gives her additional credibility. “I’ll use this to shop agents,” she said.
GOING BIG, FROM HOME
And with the burgeoning number of outlets for films these days, the sky’s the limit. “There are more opportunities,” she said, pointing to the likes of Netflix and Hulu. “It’s unreal. You don’t have to rely on the big studios. The Trial of the Chicago 7 by Aaron Sorkin [on Netflix] — to watch that at home was great.”
Home, meaning Tawas, Michigan. Rahn said when she and her boyfriend decided to move to her home state, she told him to pick a place at random, and that’s how they ended up on the east side. “I wanted to move here [Michigan] and slow down and reconnect.”
Mission accomplished. Now it’s on to more scriptwriting. She and her boyfriend are currently writing a horror film together, but she still has a number of ideas for future Christmas-themed movies.
The influence of northern Michigan is obvious in her writing. “I sneak in a lot of Easter eggs from northern Michigan,” she said of His Killer Fan. “All my Christmas movies are magical settings, like in Traverse City. That’s a perfect setting.”
And that trend will continue as she continues to expand her writing to other styles and potentially other networks. “I’m dipping my toe in a Fargo-esque series set in northern Michigan, and another horror film. All of them have female leads.”
“Growing up, so many movies had a male lead,” she explained. “This is a paradigm shift. Those are things we are more ready to accept.”
While she’s excited about shifting paradigms and expanding into other genres, Rahn said she’s nowhere near tapped out when it comes to holiday-themed movies. “I have two in mind for Christmas,” she said.
And she admits a future goal is to get one of those holiday films on the Hallmark Channel, known for its Christmas movies. Hallmark typically debuts between 20 and 25 new holiday-themed movies each year, beginning in late October, and Rahm wants hers to be one of them soon: “The one in pre-production — the goal is Hallmark.”